Apple has filed a patent (number 8,378,972) with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a keyboard with increased control of backlit keys. It relates generally to lighting control for keyboards, and more particularly to dynamic and individual control of backlighting for keys within a keyboard.
Here’s Apple’s background and summary of the invention: “Electronic devices are ubiquitous in society and can be found in everything from wristwatches to computers. While electronic devices such as computers operate in a world of ones and zeros, human beings do not. Thus, many computers include intermediary devices that allow human beings to interface to the computer.
“One such device is a keyboard which allows the user to interface with the computer by pressing certain keys. Optionally, the user may view a display connected to the computer to determine if the user’s desired output was achieved, or input correctly entered.
“While most conventional approaches implement keyboards and other intermediary devices as purely input devices, some conventional approaches may convey output information to the user of the computer via the keyboard. For example, when a user presses the CAPS lock key, a light at the top of the keyboard may light up to indicate that such a selection has been made.
“Alternatively, some conventional approaches may provide a keyboard that associates lights with its keys, where the keyboard may be statically configured at boot time. Unfortunately, these conventional approaches have several drawbacks. For example, most conventional keyboards lack the ability to convey complex information to a user (such as, for example, more information than just whether the CAPS lock key is on).
“Also, while some conventional keyboards may include backlit keys, conventional keyboards with backlighting do not offer the ability to dynamically control lighting schemes for each of the keys individually based upon interaction from the user (e.g., typing on a keyboard, mouse movements, or based upon which application is currently executing that is independent of a particular input from the user). Accordingly, methods and apparatuses that provide increased control of backlit keys for a keyboard are useful.
“Methods and apparatuses are disclosed that provide increased control of backlit keys for a keyboard. Some embodiments may include controllers within the keyboard that are capable of dynamically programming illumination of the keyboard based upon interaction from a user, where each key of the keyboard may be individually programmed in a dynamic manner.
“For example, a spell checking function may be executing on a computer system, and as the user types various words, the keyboard may dynamically program the illumination of keyboard controllers such that the next letter of the word being typed is illuminated by the keyboard. Also, different keyboard illumination schemes may be generated based upon mouse movements by the user and/or based upon which application is currently executing.
“Data for controlling the keys of the keyboard may be generated as an array that may include such information as the identifier associated with a particular key (e.g., the ‘A’ key), a brightness associated with this key (e.g., High, Medium, Low and so on), a color associated with this key (e.g., red, green, and/or blue), as well as a duration of illumination for this key (e.g., two seconds). The information in such a data array may be provided to the keyboard in this format or further processed to create different representations of the data based upon the sophistication of the keyboard circuitry.
“For example, in some embodiments, the keys of the keyboard may be light sources of any color, and may result from a combination of two or more primary colors, such as light sources capable of producing red, green, and/or blue (RGB) light. In such embodiments, the array may include individualized illumination information for each of the primary colors such as one second for the red light source at a first power level and two seconds for the green light source at a second power level. In other embodiments, the keys of the keyboard may be light sources that include a single color of illumination capable of producing differing shades of the same color.
“Some embodiments of the keyboard may include at least two control circuits for controlling the illumination of the keys. For example, the keyboard may include a global controller that receives illumination information (such as data arrays of illumination information) and conveys this information to local controllers, where each local controller may independently control a group of keys.
“In these embodiments, one local controller may control the keys on the left hand side of the keyboard and another local controller may control the keys on the right hand side of the keyboard. Other embodiments may have different global/local controller configurations, such as a single combined global/local controller, any combination of global and local controllers, or a number of independent local controllers without a global controller.
“Some embodiments may include a keyboard where the keyboard further includes a plurality of keys, a plurality of light sources coupled to the keys, and a global control circuit coupled to a first local control circuit controlling a first light source in the plurality and coupled to a second local control circuit controlling a second light source in the plurality. In these embodiments, the first and second local control circuits may be dynamically programmed during operation of the keyboard. Other embodiments may have different circuit configurations, such as a single combined global/local circuit, any combination of global and local circuits, or a number of independent local circuits without a global control circuit.
“Other embodiments may include a system that includes a computer with a keyboard coupled to the computer. The keyboard may include a plurality of keys, a keyboard controller coupled to the plurality of keys, a plurality of light sources coupled to the plurality of keys, and a lighting control circuit coupled to the plurality of light sources. In these embodiments, the keyboard controller may detect a keystroke of a user associated with an application executing on the computer, and the lighting control circuit may be dynamically programmed based upon the keystroke.
“Still other embodiments may include a method of operating a keyboard as an output device, where the method includes executing an application on a computer system (the computer system coupled to the keyboard), detecting a keystroke associated with the application, and dynamically controlling illumination of a plurality of light sources coupled to a plurality of keys of the keyboard, where the dynamic control may be based upon the keystroke, or alternatively, the dynamic control may be based upon other system events, such as mouse movement or a currently executing application.”
The inventors are Aleksandar Pance, Alex J. Crumlin, Nicholas Vincent King, Duncan Kerr, Chris Ligtenberg and James E. Orr IV.